Worth getting out of bed for...
- Coombe Hill, near Wendover, is the highest point in the county and overlooks the glorious grasslands of Aylesbury Vale. Take binoculars and act the twitcher, spotting red kites, yellowhammers and firecrests soaring above the valleys.
- Arts and culture
- With its history of writers, artists, kings and queens, Buckinghamshire has some real cultural clout. Discover remnants of the past at Hughenden Manor, the country home of Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli, or gen up on mediaeval martyrs and lace-making at Amersham Museum, tucked away in a Tudor hall on the High Street. In Middle Claydon, admire the dazzlingly lavish interiors of Claydon House, designed by its 18th-century owner, Sir Ralph Verney, with the aim of impressing his rich neighbours.
- Something for nothing
- Hill-walking is as free as the sunshine, and there are no limits to the variety of trails you can stroll along. More daredevil visitors head to Aston Hills for some of the best mountain-biking in the region.
- The historic town of Aylesbury hosts farmers’ market where ‘all products are grown, reared, caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked or processed by the stallholder’ on the fourth Tuesday of every month, and there’s a street market – selling fruit, vegetables, clothes and garden ornaments – on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (there’s also a flea market every Tuesday). Another popular famers’ market takes places in Beaconsfield, on the last Saturday of each month; fresh baked goods, locally grown vegetables, preserves and honey are all on offer. Stop by Boycott Farm in Buckingham for their own free-range eggs and beef, as well as cakes, pies and home-cooked meals. In Wendover, wend your way through the village antique shops in search of the seriously delicious chocolate from Rumsey’s (www.rumseys.co.uk). Inspired by the film Chocolat, this coffee house is the perfect place to relax and graze on gourmet hand-made pralines, creams and petits fours.
- Hellfire Club member, Dilettante Society founder and infamous libertine Sir Francis Dashwood transformed West Wycombe Park between 1740 and 1781; today, you can explore the house’s neo-classical splendour as well as the landscaped park and several classical temples. Then, head underground to the Hellfire Caves: Dashwood had a network of tunnels excavated below West Wycombe Hill, leading to the Inner Temple – directly below the church on the top of the hill – where the Hellfire Club held secret meetings.
- Perfect picnic
- Join the deer and great spotted woodpeckers in historic Langley Park, in the south of the county. Roll out your blanket with a view of Langley Mansion and feast on cakes and paninis from the park’s San Remo Tearoom.
- Buckinghamshire is a hiker’s paradise, with more than 2,500 miles of paths, trails and byways. One 4.5-mile marked walk in the village of Thornborough takes in a mediaeval bridge, Roman burial mounds, a nature reserve and the Buckingham branch of the Grand Union Canal. Another popular hike is up and around Coombe Hill; keep an eye out for high-ranking politicos, as the nearest pub (the Bernard Arms) is the traditional haunt of prime minsters and their guests while they're weekending at Chequers..
- The magical Roald Dahl Museum (www.roalddahlmuseum.org) is in the village of Great Missenden, where the author lived and worked for 36 years. Snuffle up some snozzcumber sandwiches at the museum’s playful Café Twit.
- After getting happily lost wandering in the woods for an afternoon, take to the skies for a bird’s-eye view of the trees: hot-air-balloon rides take off from Aylesbury (www.virginballoonflights.co.uk). If you’d prefer a horse’s-eye view, Buckinghamshire isn’t lacking in stables offering riding lessons or hacking, such as Red Barn Farm in Marlow (+44 (0)1494 882820) and Widmer Equestrian Centre in Princes Risborough (+44 (0)1844 275139).
- Buckinghamshire’s ideal for outdoorsy types but, if the weather’s bad, head to the Chiltern Brewery Museum for some chalky homemade brew. Tours are available and include lunch of hot bread, cheeses and a generous portion ofbangers and mash.
April The Chilterns Easter Festival of Food is held each year at the Memorial Hall Park in Buckinghamshire (www.chilternscountryfoodfair.co.uk). June The Roald Dahl Festival, with its parade of giant Dahl characters, is held on the last Saturday of June in Aylesbury town centre. September On the first Thursday of the month, the Buckinghamshire County Show takes place at Weedon Park, just North of Aylesbury. Varied attractions include a military band, farm animal show, a food hall, show jumping, and hot air balloon rides. Meanwhile, the bunting and the fairground attractions come out for Old Amersham’s Charter Fair annually on the 19th and 20th.